I did an internship during the summer of 1975 at the Hot Springs Star, a weekly newspaper in the southern Black Hills of South Dakota that was still entirely a hot lead operation.


Briefly what that means is that the Star had a Linotype machine that created solid lines of lead type that were formed into columns until an entire page was created that could be lifted onto a press and reproduced.  After it was completed, the lead type would be melted down for next time.

What we did at the Hot Springs Star 36 years ago differed little from the way Gutenberg printed his Bible 500 year earlier.

A year later, when I reported for my first daily newspaper job at the Idaho State Journal in Pocatello, hot lead was ancient history.  That year left 500 years of printing history behind.

And it seems that every year since has brought just as much change as that one. 

Publishing has moved largely away from paper to electronics.   Amazon announced in the last week that it now sells more books for tablets than for paper bound in either hard or soft covers.

When we talk of writing or editing for electronic publishing, we tend to make it sound far more simple than it is.  The package or collection of “stuff” that you need to “produce” for the wired world is pretty extensive.

It amounts to an “electronic nest” that is really more delicate that we like to think.  

The heart of my own “electronic nest,,”  since before we began publishing Food Safety News, has been the much-touted MacBook Air.  Light, quick, and powerful, I have become completely dependent on it.

Why I did not react to the signs it was giving me beginning a month or so ago, I do not know.  Mainly its normally quick operations were slowing to a crawl.  I thought erasing unneeded files from its memory might help.

Then during my return visit to the Gulf of Mexico earlier this month, it would not turn on.  I managed to bring it back and left it on for a week until I got back home.  But then it died.   

The tech at the Apple Store told me it needed a new hard drive.  With no other choice, I sent if off for the change.   If I had prepared for this, using Apple’s Time Machine function or Mobile Me for sending things off to “the cloud,” my electronic nest would not have been so disputed.

But I didn’t, so it was.

I’ve lost some email directories and pictures.  Luckily most official Food Safety News information is kept on outside websites.  But remaking the electronic nest means re-doing printer codes, and re-doing various software.  All of this takes time — hours on the phone in some instances.

This collection of cameras, phones, and computers that we need to work does make life easier in the long run—just not when you are setting it up for the first time.